Microwave treatment of wood has now been successfully tested

DunnagemarkISPM15 is an international standard that specifies the treatment for wood packaging materials used for international shipment.   The purpose of the treatment is to irradiate all insects and larvae that may have burrowed into the wood.    Wood packaging has the potential of transporting insects from oneregion to another.   Species that are transported to a region where they are not native are called Invasive species.   Invasive species can cause significant ecological disruption as the invasive species may not have any natural enemies to control its propagation.  One notable example is the Asian Longhorn beetle has been attributed to wood pallets being shipped from China to the US.

There are three approved methods for treating wood for ISPM 15 compliance.

  1. Heat treatment that consists of bringing the core material to 56 degrees C and maintaining for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Chemical fumigation with Methyl Bromide.
  3. Dielectric heating with microwave or radio frequency heating.

The third method was approved relatively recently.

Microwave heating has not been commercially used because there was not any microwave equipment available configured to accomplish large scale wood heat treating.  However there is a recent announcement by Pallet Enterprise that an Italian pallet company has successfully developed and tested microwave heat treatment. (source).

How soon will microwave treatment become a common treatment?    The technology does face some challenges:

  • The technology has yet to be used outside of a few test sites in Europe
  • There are very few sources that are building large scale dielectric heating systems
  • Large-scale penetration of such technology has a high cost barrier
  • Extremely cold ambient temperatures greatly diminish the output
  • A viable unit would probably take significant space

Although there are many challenges, the potential through put and cost improvements that dielectric heating has over conventional heating and chemical fumigation are great.    The Italian company that created the test site, The Scaroni Group is currently evaluating the US market.

Packnet is certified to source and process ISPM 15 approved materials and stamp all finished products with a Packnet specific ISPM 15 marking.  Packnet is licensed and audited by the Timber Products Inspection Agency.    For more information, please see our ISPM 15 webpage.